Aida, presented by local Theater Latté Da, performs at the Pantages Theater in Minneapolis January 3rd-27th. With music and lyrics by the legendary duo of Tim Rice and Elton John and based on the opera by Giuseppi Verdi, Aida possesses one of the best love stories you can find in a musical. Aidatakes place in ancient Egypt as the love between an Egyptian prince named Radames and a Nubian slave named Aida grows and causes pain and sorrow, but shows in the end that love prevails and is everlasting. This may sound like every other love story, but it is so much more developed, intricate, and beautiful than the rest and can be credited to the book’s writers Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, and David Henry Hwang. The story alone makes Aida worth seeing.
Latté Da’s production goes above and beyond, showcasing not only the beautiful story but wonderful Minnesota talent as well. Austene Van’s performance of Aida is heart-rending and proves that her voice can be powerful not only when loud but also when she pulls back, making the audience hang on her every word. Her vocal range in shown in the well-received Act 1 Finale “The God Loves Nubia,” bringing the audience to tears. Jared Oxborough’s performance of Radames, although not so impressive acting-wise, leaves everyone speechless as he hits notes other men would only dream of hitting. Although no one can replace Adam Pascal, the original Radames, Oxborough makes a successful attempt at filling the shoes of one of modern Broadway’s greatest. The outstanding Cat Brindisi plays the role of the materialistic fashionista Amneris. Amazing in any role she plays, Cat delivers another stellar performance, bringing modern comedic relief to the story along with believable, emotional character development. Unlike Oxborough, Brindisi’s performance actually gives the original Amneris Sherie Rene Scott a run for her money, most notably in the songs “Every Story is a Love Story” and “My Strongest Suit”. Ben Bakken’s performance of Zoser, Rodames’ father, can be described in three words: impressive but excessive. Bakken’s Adam Lavine-like voice with Adam Lambert-like range leaves the audience in awe, but would benefit from the turning down of his microphone by even just one notch. Nathan Barlow’s performance of the Nubian servant Mereb is also notable, as his contributions to the story and to songs such as “Not Me” are very well received and well-done.
As far as the telling of the story, director Peter Rothstein takes an interesting route. First of all, a modern twist is put on the ancient Egyptian/Nubian costumes. For example, Mereb wears reds converse, Zoser wears (S&M inspired) leather, Amneris wears jeans, and Radames wears a wife-beater. This adds a timeless feel to the story, showing that although ancient, it is still relatable. Rothstein also incorporates other mediums to help tell the story. During solo songs, actors appear behind a curtain as silhouettes to act out what the character is singing about. This is very effective because it gives the audience a glimpse of what is happening off stage, and provides them with more to look at than the singer alone.
Besides being a little too loud, Theater Latté Da’s Aida is overall a wonderful night at the theater. It will leave you impressed, inspired, hopeful, and most importantly, changed.